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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

As the Sun Sets

This is a view of the raised bed vegetable garden, with all of the white garden cloth removed so I could water everything this evening. I am delighted that so far I've been able to keep the rabbits from eating my seedlings by keeping the beds covered. I am actually allowing myself to think I might get some green beans this year. That's them in the bed in the upper left hand corner of the picture. Three lovely 8 foot rows of beans, without a single rabbit bite on them. Should be enough to share!

I plan to finish out the lettuce in the next week or so (if the heat hasn't turned it bitter) and then replant that bed with more green beans. (I'm on a roll with the beans!) I also have one bed that I've reserved for a second planting of corn, which I'll sow over the weekend. And, I need to thin out some zinnia and sunflower seedlings.

I'm pretty excited about what's going on in the vegetable garden right now!

See My Garden Pictures for one last picture of Spidewort.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mystery Solved

Someone has saved me by identifying my mystery plant as burdock and leaving me a helpful comment. To whoever it was, Thank you! I've heard of burdock, but have never really seen it growing. I was horrified by the description on this website. Such a weed. I've chopped it all down, bagged it up and it will be heading out to the trash, not the compost bin. Then I sprayed the stump that was left with a weed killer called "Perfectly Naturally Weed and Grass Killer".

I think I like this particular weed killer. The active ingredient is clove oil and the inert ingredient is vinegar. I used it over the weekend on some thistle, which now appears to be dead, dead, dead. So I finished up the bottle of it this evening on the burdock, more thistle, and the moneywort, which is making its first valiant comeback. I knew the moneywort would try to do so and so I haven't yet tried to plant anything where it was growing, as I know that I need to make sure it is all gone first. See this post for my opinion on moneywort.

Also, where the moneywort was there are now hundreds of little thistle seedlings also trying to make a go of it. I've sprayed them down as well. Hopefully this spray will do the trick, kill those weeds and we can all return to a blissful life in the garden, full of sweet smelling flowers, soft grass, and pristine weed-free beds. Ha!

I'm definitely going back to the store to get more of this weed killer!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Visit to a Garden

This past Saturday, I visited the gardens of one of my aunts.

My aunt has been gardening in the same place since the late 1950's. She has a little bit of everything and all of it looks so nice and well-tended. Even though she uses a walker to get around, she has figured out how to use one of those rolling seats to get around her flower beds to weed, prune and plant.

The picture above is one of her flower beds in the back. There are all kinds of flowers in it, including some very impressive Baptisia, False Indigo. She had several Baptisia plants throughout the garden, all big and full of bloom.

I like to visit gardens that have been cared for and loved by one gardener for so long. My aunt probably knows every inch of that garden, where the water stands after a rain, where the sun is at a given hour, when everything blooms. She knows the rhythm of the seasons in that garden, when to plant and when to prune and how best to put it to bed for the winter and what to do first in the spring. I'm sure through a lot of trial and error, she's got it figured out, yet like most gardeners, she probably also learns something new every day she works in the garden.

I certainly did not leave her garden empty handed. She let me dig up some mums that came from my grandmother, a start from an old rose that was on the property when they had the house built (left over from a farm that had been subdivided to provide the lots for the neighborhood), bee balm and lily of the valley. I already have some lily of the valley, but wanted some that she said came from my grandmother’s garden. I also cut off a branch from her money plant (Lunaria) for the seeds. And, she gave me a few pots of rain lilies (Zephyranthes) and a night blooming cereus.

The night blooming cereus is what originally prompted the garden visit. My aunt wanted me to take it because it is a big gangling plant. She couldn't deal with it any more and yet she could not just pitch it. She started it from a leaf cutting my Dad gave her, so it is probably at least 20 years old!

Other garden notes…

We went from spring to hot summer, all in a day. It was 89 degrees yesterday and just as hot today. The violas certainly don’t like the heat, so they are just about done for.

I’ve put more garden cloth over the raised beds, because I think it is really helping to keep the rabbits out. So far, so good. I hope in a week or so, I can remove the cloth and if the rabbits do some nibbling, the beans and corn will be big enough to survive it. If anyone has experience using this cloth and can offer some advice, please chime in.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Mystery Plant

I do not know what this plant is. Honestly. This is not a post like this one from before. I don't recall planting anything that was going to have leaves this big. I would have remembered it. (Note the daisies are just growing around the plant, the one with the big leaves. I know what the daisies are!)

I will have to spend the rest of the evening going through reference books trying to figure out if this is something good, or some big weed. Some of the lower leaves are almost a foot and a half long. I noticed it last year, but it never flowered, and this section of the garden was a bit overtaken by perennial sweet peas, so I didn't really bother with it much. But now that I've cleaned up the sweet peas, I've got to figure out what this is! I hope it flowers soon.

If anyone has an idea, please comment, I could use some help on this one.

See My Garden Pictures for an update on spiderwort flowers in the garden. I do know what those are!)

Race Day and Harvest Update

Happy Race Day to all. Oh, you don't know about race day? Well, in Indiana, race day is the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. For many, it's a day to actually go to the Indianapolis 500 race. For many others, including me, it's a good day to start on or finish up a few gardening tasks or other outdoor projects.

Like many in central Indiana, I'll be listening to the race on the radio. We don't get it on TV live. In fact, it wasn't until I went to college and talked to people who weren't from around here that I realized the race was broadcast live on TV around the world, and only in our little world in central Indiana is it "blacked out". We all just assumed that everyone was doing what we were doing, listening on the radio, generally while we were outside working on projects or grilling food or just relaxing. I usually just listen to the start of the race and then move on to other things. You've got to hear Jim Nabor's sing "Back Home Again in Indiana", or you feel you've missed something that's part of the beginning of summer!

Harvest Update: Already this morning, I've been out harvesting radishes (just about the last of those), lettuce (need to finish it up before it bolts in the heat) and green onions (plenty of those, still). I've got them all cleaned up and ready to eat.

I remember shelling peas on Memorial Day weekend with my Dad. I don't know what's wrong with my peas, but that haven't even started to bloom yet, let alone have pods ready to pick. Well, I know what's wrong with half of the peas, the half the rabbits ate down to six inches. Otherwise, I think I am planting them too late. Dad tended to push it in the spring and plant just as soon as he possibly could, which is probably why he had peas on Memorial Day weekend, and I don't.

The picture above is of the raised bed with the early spring vegetables in it. Behind it, you can see part of the new strawberry bed, which I covered with white cloth to keep the rabbits from eating those plants, too. The peas are growing on the trellis on the far side of the bed; the ones on the right have been munched down by the rabbits, the ones on the left haven't bloomed yet. (You know, with all the troubles I have with rabbits, I think I am showing amazing constraint by not adding adjectives or symbols from the top of the keyboard in front of the word "rabbits" whenever I type it. But this is a "G rated" blog and I intend to keep it that way.)

The weathermen are predicting we will reach 90 degrees today, so any work I do outside will probably be done before lunch, so I better get at it! Break time is over, I'm heading to the garden to weed.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Shrub Clematis

It's all about the plants for me. This is Clematis integrifolia 'Alba', White Solitary Clematis, which is currently blooming in my garden. Unlike most clematis which are vines, this is a small shrub-like perennial. I prune it back in early spring, like you would the vine varieties, and it grows to about 1 - 2 feet. I have to provide a support for it, much like you would provide support for peonies.

The variegated leaves to the left of the clematis belong to zebra grass, another plant that a friend generously gave me a start of 9 years ago when I started this garden. I have enough of it now that I can afford to be quite generous with anyone who wants some of it for their own garden. When I see zebra grass for sale at the garden center, I almost feel it is my civic gardening duty to tell anyone I see who looks like they are going to buy it to just stop by my house, and I'll give them a nice start of it.

The real point of this posting is to explain that I am a plant person. I am not a landscape design person. I don't do very well with design. Yes, I know the basics and can copy design from others. And I know my garden has several design flaws (which over time I'll correct). A written landscape design wouldn't last long for me, because when I see a new plant that I like, I buy it and then decide where I will put it. I don't want to not have a plant that I like just because it isn't part of a landscape design.

Oh, there have been times when I passed up a plant that I really wanted because deep down I knew I wouldn't have a good place for it. But, I might think about that plant for a long time afterwards and wonder if I should have bought it anyway. I saw a wisteria vine for sale earlier this spring, and I REALLY wanted it. It had blooms on it that were so pretty. But I passed it up, because I just couldn't figure out where to put it, and I thought it might lead me to purchase a pergola or other support structure and distract me from my spring planting overall. But, I'm still thinking about that wisteria that I passed up.

Yes, it's about the plants.

(See My Garden Pictures for pictures of the mock orange which is also currently in bloom.)

Four Day Weekend For Gardening

I'm starting my Memorial Day weekend a day early. In my mind, I have a growing list of garden ideas to get to. These range from mundane tasks like mowing the lawn and weeding the vegetable garden to medium-effort endeavors like going to get a load of mulch for the paths in the raised bed garden to full-all-out adventures like getting the tiller out and digging up a new flower bed.

We will see how much I get done! I know I'll mow the grass, and weed some, and oh, yes, go visit my aunt and take that night blooming cereus off her hands. (If you know me and would like to provide a good home for this plant, let me know!) I also hope to perhaps pick up a few heirloom plants from her while I am there. Other than that, we'll see what each day and hour brings.

The weather forecasters are predicting that the clouds will move out soon and it will be sunny and hot all weekend. That's why I am inside now, not outside working. I'm waiting to see if it is going to rain or not. It's windy and cool and sure looks like it might rain at any time. I remember my builder who would get so frustrated when subcontractors wouldn't show up at a job site because "it might rain" but it wasn't raining yet. His motto was just get going and if it rains, you can stop, but if it doesn't rain, you are that much further ahead. Following his advice, I should get out there and just get going.

I'd also like to go to a particular perennial garden/garden center on the west side sometime this weekend, but that's the same side of town where there will be a "few" extra people for the Indy 500, so I'll have to time my travels to avoid times when those extra people will be driving around.

We'll see how it all goes!

(The picture above is a close up of a spiderwort flower. For some reason, I have a keen interest in these plants this season, not sure why. I found an Internet source for a variety with a variegted leaf. Today would be a good day to order it, don't you think?!)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Daisies Rule!

These are some daisies blooming throughout the perennial garden right now and I have chosen them as my "flower of the week". I like these particular daisies and let them somewhat naturalize themselves throughout the garden. They do a good job of filling in blank spaces and help tie the whole garden together. They aren't as invasive as a lot of plants, and are easy to weed out in the early spring if they get too rambunctious. I cut them back after the first full bloom and then they bloom off and on through the summer. I'll admit that I don't know if these came from seeds, or if I bought plants, or if someone gave them to me. Nor do I know the specific variety.

I have records of the seeds I've sown going back to 2000 and don't see these listed. But, since I can't remember anyone giving them to me, nor can I remember buying them, I would guess I started these daisies from seed "pre-2000".

So, do I keep a lot of records about the garden, you ask?

Well, I keep more records than some people, but certainly not as many records as others do. I catch myself, too often, thinking as I plant that I won't need to put a label with a new plant because "of course I'll remember what it is". And for some plants, at least for the first season, I do remember. Then comes the long winter, and spring, and oops! I forgot.

The records I do keep include:

- a 10 year gardening journal started in 2001. There is a page for each day, and a place for 10 years worth of notes on each page. I'm on the 6th year. I like to look back and see when plants bloomed, when I planted different things, when the lawn service came, when I mowed the grass and the high and low temperature for each day. So, when I finish this journal, I'll start another one.

- a list of the seeds I plant each year, usually done on an Excel spreadsheet.

- a box of receipts from various nurseries.

- a bulletin board in the garage where I've tacked up all the plant labels from any trees, shrubs, or perennials that I've planted. It's full, so I need to go through and take off some of the tags for plants that died on me or disappeared. I might just move them to a "memorial board" or maybe but them on a board marked "missing", in case any of them mysteriously re-appear! To be fair, I probably also need a board for "banished" for those plants I planted and shouldn't have and spent a lot of time getting rid of! (Moneywort, variegated artemesia, chocolate mint, etc.) Anyway, it's easy to run into the garage and look at the bulletin board to find the name of a particular plant that I've forgotten.

At one time, a few years ago, I had the big idea of listing every plant I had on a spreadsheet. I started off with the labels and then my plan was to go around the yard to list what I didn't have labels for. Well, I did get as far as entering the information from all the labels into a spreadsheet, but didn't fill in the blanks on what I didn't have labels for, so I abandoned that project. It was feeling too much like work, and was taking too much time away from "just gardening"!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Lilac Update

I still get questions about lilacs, so thought I would provide this post with a quick link to the posting about lilacs.

My lilacs have been great this year! I've still got plenty of bloom on my Miss Kim Lilacs and have a lot of work ahead of me to cut off all the old blooms. But, it's worth it to me to take the time to cut off the old blooms so that each year I get a lot of flowers to enjoy.

Next up, the Japanese Tree Lilac. It's got a lot of buds on it and should provide some good bloom in early June.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Random Garden Notes

I might be imaging it, but already, after one day of being covered with a garden cloth, I think my strawberry plants look bigger. I do think the rabbits were eating the leaves off as they emerged. I've solved that problem! Hopefully I will finally get some green beans this year if I keep a garden cloth on the bean patch until the plants get big enough to not be bothered by a little bit of rabbit nibbling (if there is even such a thing as a "little bit" of rabbit nibbling).

I have a friend at work who confessed to not knowing exactly what she was looking for when she went out to her radish patch to get some radishes. Not seeing the radishes, she assumed her plants weren't producing them. Then someone came over, went to the patch, and came back with radishes. "Where did you get those?", she asked. "From your radish patch." It hadn't occurred to her that the radishes were the root of the plant, underground. She says she sort of knew that, having always loved radishes, but just didn't think about that when she was trying to get some from her own patch. She was thinking more along the lines of picking the radishes like she does peppers. (I'm not kidding, I can't make up stuff like this!)

My aunt asked me to come and get the night blooming cereus plant (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) that she has. Hers also came from a start from my Dad's plant, so I would guess she has had this plant for close to 25 years, and she just can't deal with it any more. I don't have a digital picture of mine but here's a link to some pictures so you can see why this is a house plant that has "special needs", mainly for space. Follow this link if you want to see my previous post about my plant. I admire my aunt for keeping this plant for so long. Now I just need to figure out what to do with it once I get it!

Our 7 day weather forecast calls for warming temperatures, which is great for the upcoming holiday weekend, and considerably lessens, I think, our chances for a late frost. It really is going to be summer soon and the official start of the season is just days away. "Summer time and the living is easy."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Ready to Eat!

I planted up the vegetable garden this afternoon, so I'm ready to eat all the good things I hope to harvest later this summer. You can't see too much in this picture of the raised beds where I plant the vegetables, so you will just have to take me at my word that I planted it up today.

The two beds that look white are beds that I covered with white garden cloth to keep the bunnies out. The cloth is supposed to let in 80% of the light. This is my latest attempt to keep the rabbits away from the green beans and strawberries. Once the beans have germinated and have grown to a size where a few nibbles from the bunnies won't make a difference, I'll remove the cloth. I am also concerned that the strawberries are already being eaten by the bunnies, so I covered them with some garden cloth, which I will keep on until the plants get bigger and more established.

My summer vegetable garden includes tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, green beans, corn, sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds and eggplant.

The tomato varieties include: Sugary, which is a sweet grape tomato which I first grew last year and loved, so I'll be planting it every year; Big Boy, an old favorite; Early Girl, because I am trying to get a few tomatoes before the 4th of July; Super Beefsteak, so I can have some of those great big tomatoes that totally cover a piece of bread with just one slice; and Glory, because I wanted to try a new variety and this one sounded good. I also planted two "heirloom" tomatoes, Brandywine and German Johson (also called German Pink) which I purchased earlier today on impulse. The other tomatoes I started from seed back in March.

I planted a new variety of corn called Mirai which is supposed to be super sweet and tender and store well. I hope I planted enough to get good pollination!

I also planted pole beans. This is the first time I have tried pole beans, so we'll see how it works out. I put up a "teepee" made of bamboo stakes for them to climb on and I'll use cayenne pepper or something like that to keep the rabbits away from those once they germinate

I'm still enjoying lettuce, radishes, and green onions from the garden, from my early spring planting. However, I don't think I'll get too many peas as the bunnies have eaten a lot of the vines. I am still hoping to get a few peas, anyway.

If someone has a good idea on how to keep the rabbits out, LET ME KNOW.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Family Plants

These are peonies that Dad always had and I dug and divided them 5 years ago and now I have them to enjoy and remember. I remember that he always cut them for us to take to our teachers. And some years if they bloomed at the right time, we would go with Dad to see Grandma and Grandpa and take some of these to help them decorate graves over Memorial Day weekend.

While mowing the lawn earlier today, I was thinking about passalong plants, family heirloom plants, and family tradional plants.

Passalong plants are plants that you get from friends or 'same generation' family, like your sister or brother. These are those plants that are easy to divide and share. Generally, the giver either bought the original plant or got it from another friend. I've got several plants like this including zebra grass, blood grass, catnip, and bleeding heart.

Family heirloom plants are those plants that are handed down from one generation to the next and become like members of the family. They are special because they are from the same stock that was grown by your parents, possibly their parents, and may even go further back than that. I've got peonies and Michaelmas daisies that are in this category. I can't pass by those plants without being reminded of where they came from and who grew them. My aunt has a rose that came from one my great-grandmother had. I had a start of it that I left at another house, so I am hoping to get with her soon to get another start.

Then there are family traditional plants. I don't know if this is the right terminology, but this is what I decided to call plants that you grow because you remember that your parents or grandparents or some other relative grew the same thing. I have a 'snowball bush' (Viburnum) because my grandmothers had them, but mine isn't from the same plant stock. I also plant geraniums every year because my Dad always had geraniums. And, I also think the reason I plant a vegetable garden every year, even though I've been accused of not eating half of what it produces, is because my Dad had a vegetable garden, and so, of course, I would have a vegetable garden, too.

I also have plenty of plants that are 'new to the family', that I grow that my ancestors wouldn't have known about, or wouldn't have been able to get, or have only been bred in the last few years. This includes plants like the new Endless Summer hydrangeas, birds' nest spruce, and variegated brunnera.

And there are 'family traditional plants' that I wouldn't have, regardless of any memories associated with them. This includes yews and junipers, which were the predominate shrubs around the house I grew up in, and the 'stink tree', also called tree of heaven, very common in city yards. My grandmother had one in her backyard.

A garden can be a lot more than pretty flowers, trimmed lawns and interesting plants, it can be a real link to your family and friends. So pass along some plants, visit your relatives and get starts from their plants and ask them about what they remember growing in other family gardens, and plant those plants that remind you of your own family.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Deu you plant Deutzia?

This is one of the deutzia shrubs that I have growing in the same bed as English ivy. It is Deutzia gracilis 'Nikko', one of the dwarf varieties. The left picture is the shrub, the right picture is a close up of the bloom. Neither picture is all that great, and mine are still a little ratty from spending several years trying to grow with all that ivy choking them out, so you might check out this website for a better look at this great shrub

Remember I posted about how I pulled bags and bags of ivy out of that bed earlier in March-April. But since I didn’t get all the ivy out, now that spring is well-here, the ivy is growing very well again. (You can look up previous posts on my efforts to rid this bed of this ivy!) In fact, the ivy seems better than it’s been in the past few years, probably because of the effort I put forth to cut it out. What’s left has more room to grow!

What also has room to grow now are the deutzias. They are just starting to bloom and already I can see that they are bigger and healthier than before, without all that ivy smothering them.

Deutzia is one of those shrubs that you don’t see too often, which is a shame. I’ve had no trouble with mine. It stays small and blooms in mid to late May.

I have a theory as to why you don’t see more of deutzia… that’s because the “big” national nurseries who sell to the "big box" stores don’t want to bother with it. It’s not well-known, so the “general public” may not be willing to buy it. Therefore, they won’t try sell it. The "big box" stores prefer to handle only the yews, junipers, boxwoods, burning bushes, rhodos and azaleas and other shrubs that I see over and over again until I just want to scream.

Get away from the big box stores and get ye to a local nursery/garden center! A locally owned garden center most likely offers locally grown plants and is willing to stock different shrubs, and has people who know what they are talking about, who are willing to explain about these less common but more interesting shrubs, AND who will actually take care of the nursery stock before it is sold! I’ve been through the garden centers at the big box stores and can’t believe the lack of care their employees give the plants.

Give me deutzias, hypericums, kerrias, viburnums, even lilacs (but not common lilacs!). How about Gold Tide forsythia? I’ve got one I purchased at a local garden center and it is a bright yellow ray of sunshine in the spring before anything else is blooming. Contrast that with some other forsythia that I bought at a hardware/garden ‘big box’ store that has failed to bloom in over five years! And no, I am not trimming it at the wrong time cutting off all the flowers buds. I’ve not trimmed it all. It’s just not blooming! Who knows what variety it really is? (After that rant, I think I’ll add those forsythia to the list of plants that JUST AREN’T PEFORMING, so it’s bye-bye to the compost bin).

Thanks, I feel better now. I think I’ll plan a trip to a LOCAL nursery sometime soon!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

More, more, more!

I think one thing every gardener needs to learn is basic plant propagation. With a little bit of plant propagation knowledge and some courage, you can quickly double, triple, really multiply your plant collection and have some plants left over to share.

Some plants do the propagation for you! They self sow themselves all over the place. You can just dig up the seedlings and move them all around to other parts of your garden as you wish. Or share them with friends, with the appropriate caution about self-sowing. My "wonderful" variegated artemesia self sows very nicely. However, I'm not of a mind to share it with anyone, because it is too prolific in self-sowing.

However, I have another variegated leaf plant that self sows that I do like to see the seedlings of and share them with others. It's a false sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides 'Loraine Sunshine'. I don't have a current picture, so here's a link if you want to see it. I think it is a real beauty of a plant! The only problem I've had with it is that the 1st year I got it, the rabbits were biting off some of the stems, and leaving them laying on the ground! (They didn't even have the decency to eat what they chewed off!)

Other plants help you along with propagation by sending up new shoots and basically getting bigger and bigger, so all you need to do is dig them up, divide them into smaller clumps and replant them. There is where the "courage" part helps for some gardeners. They get a little squeamish about cutting into the plant and dividing it up. But trust me, the plant will recover and in many cases respond with even more vigorous new growth. You can divide daylilies, peonies, hostas, asters, and many other perennials this way. I have my best success doing this in the spring before there is too much growth, and I always use a good sharp knife. In fact, I purchased a knife that is slightly curved with a serrated edge for just this purpose. You don't have to go to this extent, I just like to buy gardening tools. (If you are new to the blog, check out my hoe collection... there's a link on the right!)

For other plants, you need a little more knowledge to coax them a bit into propagating by rooting cuttings, grafting, etc. But, it is well worth the time to study up on the subject and learn how to do some basic propagation!

Oh, and seeds. Don't forget to try some seeds.

(The picture above has nothing to do with this topic, it's just a little garden ornament I have by my front steps. Oh, and it's raining (a lot) again this evening, so not much progess made in the garden!)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Garden Entrance

They say you should create an entrance to the garden that draws people in so they want to enter to see what's around the corner. I've tried to do that with this entrance to the back yard.

I hope that as people come through the gate, they want to turn right and head toward the patio. I haven't done that on the other side, but plan to soon. (If we hadn't had seven days in a row with measurable rainfall I would have done it last week!)

Once in the garden, I want people to feel drawn to other sections of the yard, but not in such a way that they feel they have to run from one spot to the next to see everything. I want people to be drawn around and through the garden, so that they can walk through in a relaxed manner. I'm still working on that.

If we have a dry spell, I may still get the tiller out and create some new planting beds before summer heat sets in.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Cool and Cloudy = Perfect

Such a perfect day for planting containers. With cool and cloudy conditions you don't have to worry about personally getting overheated and the plants have a chance to settle in to their new homes without the hot sun beating down on them. I could not have asked for a better day for finishing up the containers.

But am I finished? Not quite. I made a quick trip to the garden center this evening to get some more peat moss and vermiculite and another flat of impatiens landed in my cart, along with several double impatiens. How did that happen!? And a foliage plant, too, perfect to put in the shady spot by my front door.

By the way, I am having a hard time finding vermiculite, one of the key ingredients in my potting mix. I checked on the Internet and there has been some controversies regarding it. If you have an interest and want to find out more, go here. It's not the most exciting of topics. I found one bag of it at one store, but struck out at two other stores. I'll keep looking for it, even though I think I have enough to finish up my containers. When I find some, I'll stock up!

And thus ends my gardening vacation for 2006. I'm heading back to work tomorrow.

Check out My Garden Pictures for another variety of spiderwort just starting to bloom.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Finally, Some Dry Time!

There was finally a break in the weather earlier today, with enough dry time to make more progress outdoors. The above is my window box replanted for summer. This window box is actually a wire basket, lined with green moss. I went with a yellow theme. It doesn't look like much now but in a few weeks it should fill in nicely. If it doesn't, I'll add a few more plants.

I didn't have the heart to just toss out the pansies that were growing in this window box. They actually enjoy cooler temperatures and were still going strong, so I transplanted them to a couple of pots and set them on the front steps. Once it heats up, they'll get all leggy and stop blooming and then I can toss them into the compost bin and not feel bad about it. (Click here to see a picture of the window box with pansies in it.)

Other plants going strong in this cool weather are my early spring vegetables, as I suspected they would be. I had not checked them for a few days, so when I saw them today, I had to stop my work to have a salad snack with fresh picked lettuce, radishes and onions. Very delicious!

Check out My Garden Pictures for yet another type of columbine blooming in my gardens.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

New weather record set and some gardening babble

Yesterday, we set a new weather record by having the lowest recorded high temperature for May 12th... 49 degrees. The previous record was 52 degrees. Since it didn't frost or freeze, the plants are fine, though most of them aren't exactly going to grow and thrive under these conditions.

I am sure that the garden centers aren't moving as many plants over Mother's Day weekend as they had hoped. And I'm glad I'm not in charge out at the motor speedway, trying to figure out when they will have "pole day". Yep, things could be a whole lot worse!

My new plan is to finish planting the containers tomorrow, as long as it isn't raining. I'll get an early start! Yes, that's what I'll do! And even if it is raining, I have some indoor plants that I need to tend to.

Oh, and I haven't been out to the vegetable garden for a few days, but I would guess with all this rain and cool weather, I have a good crop of lettuce, radishes, and onions ready to be harvested! Yum, time for a salad.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Sisters in the Garden

I'd describe today as gray and drizzly and cold. This isn't the weather I had hoped for but I'll have to make do, because nothing I do is going to change it. Tomorrow, I hope for just cold so I can finish planting the containers. At this point, I'll hold off on the vegetable garden until the ground dries out a little and the weather stabilizes.

When I do plant my vegetable garden, I am going to try to grow a 'three sisters' garden in at least one, maybe two, plots. The native Americans planted such gardens which included corn, beans and squash (the three sisters). The corn provided support for the beans, the beans 'fixed' nitrogen in the soil for the corn, and the squash helped prevent weeds and keep animals away.

My dad never planted corn because he said he didn't have a big enough garden for it and you need enough corn for good pollination. My sister plants some corn in that same garden patch and they manage to get some corn each year. I just don't think my dad wanted to give up that much space for corn. He was more of a tomato man, whereas my sister doesn't grow many tomatoes at all. So, I'm going to give the three sisters garden a try and see how it goes.

One plant that my dad did have that I wish I had is a climbing rose that grew on the fence and bloomed once a year. It was spectacular when it bloomed with its big multi-petaled flowers, in various shades of pink, all blooming at once, with a heavy rose scent. All the petals fell to the ground together, it seemed, covering the grass almost completely. I don't know where he got his rose, but I've checked on the Internet and I think it is a "Seven Sisters" rose, and they are available. I just have to decide where I would put a vigorous climbing rose that only blooms once in late spring! The rest of the time, I would have long, thorny branches to contend with.

(No particular reason for the picture of daisies above. These just happen to be blooming right now, and I thought the post needed a nice picture!)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Smells So Good!

I wish that you could smell these Miss Kim lilacs! I think everyone should find a spot or two for these shrubs in their landscape. Right now, they are very fragrant, as are my Meyer lilacs. I am definitely happy I chose these shrubs for spots in my garden. These particular shrubs are shaded for part of the day, but that doesn't seem to affect their bloom, as you can see. (For more on lilacs, check out this earlier post.)

Speaking of bloom, check out My Garden Pictures for pictures of Spiderwort, which is just starting to bloom. It's an old fashioned perennial, so I feel certain that both of my grandmothers probably had it in their gardens. My aunt gave me a start of some several years ago (try about 20 years ago, eeegads) that she probably got from my 'city grandma' but I had to leave it behind at a previous garden. This is a perennial that self-sows some in the garden, so you can always find a plant or two to share with someone else. But, it doesn't self sow to the point that you would not want to have it.

Some other updates from the garden today...

I was able to mow the grass this afternoon! Yes, even though it rained for the better part of yesterday, most of the night, and into the morning, it is so windy that the lawn dried out enough for me to be able to cut it. Whew, now I don't have to worry about more rain and the grass getting out of control. I'm "good" until probably Monday, as far as needing to mow again. I like mowing the lawn, I just don't like the feeling that it can get out of control on you!

I saw that morel mushrooms are now being offered for $31 a pound. That seems pricey. I'll stick with my priceless memories of hunting for these as a kid (as reported in this previous post), and skip trying to re-live the memory with 'store bought' morels.

I still have containers to plant up. It looks like I will be doing that tomorrow, when temperatures will be in the 50's. That's cool!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Giant Hosta

This is my new hosta. It's a passalong plant that I got from my sister. They got it in a package of 'assorted hostas' several years ago, so we don't know what variety it is. What we do know is that it has giant leaves and for that reason it now has a special place in my garden.

I dug up the original plant and divided it a few weeks ago, leaving them with two new plants and me with one. Such a deal. I still need to 'underplant' this with something or add some mulch.

However, as you can see from the droplets of water on the leaves, it is now raining, and according to the weather forecast, it will be raining for awhile now. So there is not much more I can do with this plant in the foreseeable future.

I should have cut the grass again last night or earlier today! I'm really going to have some high grass to mow if this rain keeps up as predicted. It's a good thing I mow with the lawnmower on the second to the highest setting. If the grass gets too tall, I can move the blade up to the highest (emergency) setting and probably get through the lawn. Just so you know I'm not a total garden-lawn freak, I have heard of others doing this same thing.

The good news is that before it started to rain, I planted hostas around one tree in the front and daylilies around the other tree. So, the majority of planting that I have left to do is in containers, other than the vegetable garden. I can work on the containers in the rain if I have to. For the vegetable garden, since I have the raised beds, I just need a day or so without rain and I can plant that, too.

"Rain, rain, go away, Carol wants to plant today!"

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Buying and Planting

This is a picture of a columbine in bloom mixed in with some other perennials. It is not a specific variety, as far as I know, just plain, simple, regular columbine.

I like this time of year because everything is so green and new. Speaking of new, I have spent the better part of the last two days acquiring new plants for containers and a few other places. I've been to growers, greenhouses, garden centers, and big box retail stores and for the most part, I found plants at each one to purchase.

I am fortunate to live in an area with a lot of variety, at least in terms of places to purchase plants. However, finding different plants that aren't the 'same old same old' has been challenging. I guess people have to grow what sells, and not everything new sells right away.

I've started planting my containers on the front porch. I'll wrap that up tomorrow morning, then move on to the back patio and finally wrap up with the vegetable garden. In between I'll plant some hostas (variety Green and Gold) around my maple tree in front and some daylilies (variety Eenie Meenie) around the lilac tree in front.

I think the next several days will be busy, as I plant all that I've gotten so far, dodge some of the rain that is predicted for the next few days, and continue to acquire more plants!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Signs in the Garden

I made up this sign several years ago to put in my raised bed vegetable garden. It also serves as a tool rest. I attach it to the end of one of the raised beds, and then as I am working, I can lean my tools up against it.

In this raised bed are my early spring vegetables. I've harvested some radishes, but I'm still waiting on the lettuce. The grid you see is my attempt at the square foot gardening method. This is the only bed I do this in, the rest of the beds I will just plant.

The screening in the back blocks the view of my compost bins. Several years ago, one of my sisters suggested that the garden would look better if the compost wasn't in full view, so I got the bamboo screen. I have a privacy fence around the whole back yard, which blocks the neighbors' view of the garden, including the compost bins.

Shhh... don't tell the neighbors that I have compost bins. What they don't know, will be one less thing they have to fuss about or look up in the neigborhood covenants to see if it is allowed. Not many of my neighbors are into gardening, or would understand the value of good compost bins. There is nothing in the covenants about compost bins or gardens. (Yes, I've read others' neighborhood covenants that DON'T ALLOW GARDENS. What?! I can't believe it! Needless to say, before I purchased my lot, I made sure I could have a privacy fence and they didn't "outlaw" gardens. Enough on that, I am getting myself all worked up about other people's neighborhood covenants. My one regret is that my neighborhood covenants don't allow 'outbuildings', so I won't be able to have one of those cute little gardening sheds!)

Check out "My Garden Pictures" for some new pictures of several varieties of columbine blooming in the garden this week.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Snowball Bush and Weekend Update

Yes, spring! This is an old-fashioned 'snowball bush' in bloom a few days ago. I planted this just because I thought it would be a nice, old-fashioned large shrub to fill a spot in the back yard. My 'city grandma' had one, and I presume that my 'country grandma' probably had one, too.

I got the last of the weeding under control this weekend, and so I am ready to head out on Monday to start buying plants for containers and various flower beds. I hope all the greenhouses and nurseries are getting re-stocked after the weekend, 'cause here I come.

I did make one brief trip to a greenhouse on Saturday to help one of my sisters buy plants for her containers. That's all she plants, 10 containers or so. Or should I say that I plant them and then she waters them all summer. She did not inherit any gardening genes. I thought it was interesting that she bought some snapdragons because they remind her of our Dad. I buy double impatiens because they remind me of him. I wonder what other flowers my other siblings recall from his gardens?

My youngest sister, who does have the gardening gene, though she realized it later in life (making her a late-bloomer), called this afternoon to tell me that someone at a greenhouse she went to said that because we had thunderstorms in January, we would have a late frost in May. I sure hope that isn't true! I plan to start planting by mid-week!

Friday, May 05, 2006


The Dogbane is just starting to bloom.

The botanical name is Amsonia tabernaemontana 'Blue Star', also called Blue Dogbane. It's a nice perennial, one of the few "true blues". The picture doesn't really show how blue it really is. This perennial gives me no trouble and has been reliably blooming for several years now. I recommend it!

Other thoughts from today:

I forgot to include chocolate mint on my list of plants I knew I shouldn't plant. I had some in a pot and I let it "get out" a few years ago and invade one of my planting beds. I pulled most of it out last year. Yes, I said most of it, there is still some growing this year, which I pulled out today. It smells so good, just like a chocolate mint, and the underside of the leaves are a purplish-maroon color. I'll probably put some in a pot, just to keep it a while longer. (I know, I'll be careful this time!)

My sister called and was surprised to find out that I trim before I mow. I guess she trims afterwards. The reason I trim first is because then when you mow, it chops up all the grass from the trimming. If you trim afterwards, you tend to leave grass trimming all over the nicely mowed lawn! She was heading out to a greenhouse to get started on buying some plants. However, I can tell she has been reading and learning, since her first question was 'what is the 10 day weather forecast?'

I did some major pruning on my serviceberry tree. Serviceberry can be grown as a small single-trunk tree or as an overly large multi-trunked shrub. I bought mine as a tree, but then let a lot of suckers come up, so it was trying to be both. I made the decision to take it back to a single trunked tree. I think it looks better this way, plus it isn't crowding out the gate that is next to it.

Check out My Garden Pictures for some pictures of purple flowers in my garden today.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Gardening Vacation

"Gardening Vacation 2006" has officially started. Stop by for occasional updates. First tasks tomorrow are to "lay in supplies", including top soil and peat moss, trim and mow the lawn, put out the rest of the pots and garden ornaments, and then start getting some plants!

The weatherman says we'll have sunny skies and temperatures in the 60's through Tuesday. Perfect! Time to put out the "Do Not Disturb - I'm in the Garden" sign and get to it.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Potting Soil Recipe

Get out a piece of paper and a pencil or fire up your printer. Following is my Potting Soil recipe that I use for my outdoor containers. Ready? Here it is:

40 lb. bag of Top Soil or Organic Peat. This is the rich, dark stuff.
Sphagnum Peat Moss

Dump the top soil into a wheel barrow large enough to hold the entire contents of the bag and allow room for mixing.
Add in a couple of scoops of vermiculite and a couple of scoops of perlite.
Cover the whole thing with some sphagnum peat moss (an amount about equal to the perlite and vermiculite combined, maybe a little more)
Mix together with a small shovel or large trowel.

For container plants, here are some tips and tricks:

For really large pots, I put some light weight filler in the bottom of the pot, like old small plastic pots or empty plastic paks from bedding plants. Sometimes I use 'packing peanuts' but I put them in a plastic shopping bag first to make them easy to clean out in the fall. I've also heard that some people use old soda pop cans. The plants grown in the pot will not have roots that go all the way to the bottom, so this is a way to conserve on soil and making the pot lighter.

Then fill the pot partially with potting soil and mix in some slow release fertilizer, like Osmocote, following the instructions on the label. Add the plants and fill in with soil, tamping down so as not to leave air pockets. Water thoroughly and enjoy.

Some more hints... don't go too skimpy on the plants. Pack them in to give a nice full appearance. Mix up the plants, use whatever looks good together and has the same basic care requirements. Remember that the plants are entirely stuck in those pots, so don't forget to water them regularly. When it is really hot out, you may need to water in the morning and the evening, especially with smaller pots. And even though you've added some slow release fertilizer when you planted, you should use a liquid fertilizer on occasion to give the plants a boost now and then. With all the watering, the fertilizer will leach out of the soil faster than if you had planted in the ground.

Tuck the plant labels into the side of the pot. If you decide you have a winning combination of plants that you want to repeat the next season, the labels will be right there to remind you what you planted.

People often ask if they have to empty their pots at the end of every season. I generally empty the smaller pots completely, but for large pots, I may just scrape off the top few inches of soil, and add some fresh potting soil on top with more slow release fertilizer. Every few years, I also make sure to empty these pots entirely, also.

No matter where you live, there should be a spot or two for a few containers of plants! You can start planting these now, because if there is a cool night with a threat of frost, you can move them into the garage or a covered porch for protection.

With proper watering and an occasional shot of fertilizer, you'll have an entire season to enjoy your plants.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Gardening Heritage and Gardening Genes

Those who also check on my blog "Grandma's Diaries" will find that 81 years ago today, Grandma was out gardening, sowing clover in her lawn, digging new flower beds and planting bulbs and seeds. Exactly what seeds and bulbs she planted, we'll never know.

I think I have a pretty strong "gardening heritage". Many gardeners in the family came before me!

Several years ago, I asked my Aunt Marjorie (also a gardener) to send me a list of the plants she remembers from Grandma's garden, so I could have a record of what she grew. It's quite a list!

Grandma had a 'city garden', and I don't think she grew many vegetables. She did have some fruit trees, including a cherry tree and a quince tree. She might have also had a gooseberry patch. She had a "snowball bush" which was probably an old-fashioned Viburnum, and some spirea in the front by the porch. On the side of the house she had a large patch of lily of the valley. Later in the summer, she had hostas that bloomed on that same side of the house.

I also had my Aunt Susie on the other side of the family send me a list of what plants they grew on their farm. They grew a lot of vegetables and canned a lot of them for year around eating. "City grandma" also did some canning, but mostly with produce she bought from the "vegetable man".

My dad, who grew up on the farm, always had a vegetable garden, very neatly kept, well-tended, and a source of pride, I think, especially if he could harvest the 1st tomato of the season before anyone else. He had a large planter box on the front porch which he always planted with red geraniums. He made sure to buy large-sized plants, to provide a good display. To this day, I always have some geraniums in a pot on my front porch, not because I especially like them, but because that's part of my gardening heritage, and I feel compelled to have some geraniums in his memory.

Anyway, I could go on and on regarding my 'gardening heritage'. I feel fortunate to have had some examples to follow from those who gardened before me. I was thinking this evening while puttering around in the yard that gardening is really something that is best shown to others. I've never really met a gardener who got all their gardening knowledge from books and then went out and gardened. They all can tell you who showed them how to plant seeds, dead head flowers, etc. You can get ideas from books and magazines, of course, but I don't think that makes you a gardener. You become a gardener by learning from other gardeners.

You also have to have the interest, or as we call it the 'gardening gene'. I have a sister who likes to look at pretty gardens and flowers, but really doesn't have much interest in gardening as a hobby or feel particularly compelled to garden. I have a couple of other sisters who do like to garden. We talk about the nieces and nephews and try to figure out which ones have the gardening 'gene', if there is such a thing. We are pretty sure my mom doesn't have the gene, we think my niece Sophie might have it, but it may be too early to really tell. She's young yet, but is willing to help in the garden. Maybe my nephew Grant has it. He likes to have some plants in his room and tried some tomatoes last year. And, I once loaned a book on herbs to my nephew Ross when he showed an interest in plants, so maybe he is going to be a gardener. The others, we'll just have to wait and see!

Monday, May 01, 2006

On weather and lawn mowing

Regarding the weather, someone posted a question on my blog about Grandma's diary for the April 24, 1925 entry asking if I would say it was okay for them to plant early that year, since a record high temperature of 90 degrees for Indianapolis was set on that date. Nope, 'fraid not. Check out the weather records blog entry on weather records published in March (March 21st to be exact). It's too easy to get burnt (or frosted), regardless of what happened before May 10th. For example, in 2002, we hit a high of 79 on May 8th, so of course we all assumed it was safe to plant on May 10th and later. But then on May 19th, just NINE days later, we had a record low of 31 degrees. Guess what? That's the year I had to replant (and re-purchase, ouch!) a lot of plants. So be patient, wait until May 10th, then check the 10 day forecast, just to be sure, and then decide if you should plant.

Speaking of forecasts, the weatherman said this morning that we probably wouldn't have an opportunity to mow lawns until Thursday because of all the rain. Ha! I was able to mow my grass this evening, and it wasn't too wet. Yes, I did finish up during a light sprinkle, but at least I won't have to worry about renting a bush hog to mow the grass at the end of the week. No way can I go more than a week between mowings right now! I'll sleep better tonight knowing the grass is under control, and because I got some good exercise this evening mowing the lawn.

While mowing, I observed that the variegated Bishop's goutweed that I pulled out the other day is growing back. I need to keep pulling it and wear it out. The moneywort has not come back yet, but it will, so I know I still have more work to do to get rid of that completely. Always something to do in the garden!

(Okay, I'll confess, the reason I know what happened in 2002 is not because I have a great memory but because I have a 10 year garden journal that I started in 2001. I record major happenings and activities in the garden and the high/low temperatures for the day. Some people are a bit amused that I can tell them when is the latest I've mowed the grass and when is the earliest I've mowed, at least in the past 5+ years!)